An online magazine based in Philadelphia has relearned a hard truth: brick-and-mortar business is not easy.
Next City is a magazine about urban design and the health of cities around the world. To get a street-level perspective on cities, the small staff of editors moved into a open-plan, storefront space on Girard Avenue in the troubled Brewerytown neighborhood.
“Part of the idea was to change the inputs and outputs of the media we were producing,” said executive director Diana Lind. “Really trying to incorporate the day-to-day experience of life in Brewerytown and at a more street-level dynamics of the city. That would change the content we were producing.”
Lind says their direct engagement with problems many urban neighborhoods face — including food deserts where supermarkets don’t exist and erratic public transportation — spurred the staff to produce stories about those issues.
Some of the challenges faced by struggling neighborhoods ultimately drove Next City out of Brewerytown.
Lind says she was facing increased rent for the still-rough space that had no air conditioning. The magazine had difficulty finding funds to program art installations and public engagement events, which were a key reason to have a neighborhood space. Also, Brewerytown is not centrally located.
“It was a quality of life issue for our staff,” said Lind. “None of our staff lived in the neighborhood, some of us were dealing with 45-minute commutes, both ways.”
Next City is moving to a shared, co-working space in the Philadelphia Building on Chestnut Street.